Process is vital for government software development projects, given that
twenty percent of all software development projects are likely to end in
outright failure, says Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the
Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University.
Speaking at the State IT Agency (SITA) GovTech Conference on Tuesday,
Dwolatzky says that according to the Chaos Report issued by the Standish
Group in 2006, two out of ten software development projects globally never
see the light of day. A further four projects out of every ten are likely to
come in late and/or over budget while the remaining four projects will come
in on time, to budget and meet specifications.
"If one applies these figures to some of the major government IT projects
like Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) estimated at a cost
of R2,5-billion, the National Treasury's multi-billion rand Integrated
Financial Management System (IFMS) – where HR alone will cost around
R800-million – and other projects like eNatis, the Automated Fingerprint
Identification System (AFIS), SARS's eFiling, the Batho Pele Gateway and
more, then one begins to see that if the Chaos report's statistics are true
then the prospects are somewhat alarming," he says.
The good news is that the 2006 report shows significant improvement from
previous reports, with fewer projects failing outright and more coming in on
time and to budget. Jim Johnson, founder and chairman of the Standish Group
says the reason for this comes down to three main factors.
Firstly iterative development contributes to a more precise process and less
revisions within the software development process. Secondly, the Internet
has facilitated improved communication between developers and users and
thirdly process has improved.
Honing in on the third reason, Dwolatzky says according to the process
management premise: the quality of a product or service is determined by the
quality of the process used to develop or deliver it.
"The success of a software development project is therefore determined by
the maturity of the process used to deliver it. The more "immature" the
process, the higher the risk to the development project. There is therefore
a general move internationally among software development companies to
reduce risk by improving process," he says.
One of the main ways in which risk is being averted in development projects
internationally is by implementing the Capability Maturity Model
Integration (CMMI) process improvement product suite, which was developed at
the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University in
the United States.
SEI figures show that when CMMI is implemented by development companies,
their ability to estimate cost improves by an average of 34%, there is a 50%
improvement in scheduling and a 61% increase in productivity.
The JCSE brought CMMI to South Africa in 2006 and began training local
resources so that it could begin to offer CMMI consulting to the local
market at local prices.
It launched a CMMI pilot with companies like SITA, First National Bank, IBM,
Wits University and a number of small to medium enterprises. The aim of the
pilot is to take a number of companies through the CMMI process to make a
compelling case for implementing CMMI on a broader scale within South
Government is already involved in the process through the participation of
SITA in the pilot as well as a contribution by the Department of Trade &
Industry of around R1.5 million to the JCSE's CMMI programme in 2007.
Government has also acknowledged the importance of CMMI for South Africa.
Speaking at the CoMMIt conference last year, the Minister of Trade &
Industry (DTI), Mandisi Mpahlwa threw Government's support behind CMMI,
saying that process improvement would be critical in assisting local
software development companies in becoming more competitive internationally.
According to the Minister, the growth of the local software development
market will depend on strong domestic demand, skills within the sector, a
supportive infrastructure environment and international standards.
"South Africa's software development sector is lagging behind other
countries which are using CMMI to position themselves internationally," he
says. "We should see this as an opportunity to grow our own software
development sector which currently has an estimated value of around
"CMMI will be a critical success factor to increase exports and thereby
assist in growing the industry. To do this, we will have to create an
environment that produces CMMI rated companies," he says.
Dwolatzky says that the key to answering the Minister's call will be for the
ICT sector, and particularly development companies, to focus on process
improvement and positioning themselves to compete side-by-side with
"To be able to compete internationally on the software development stage
will require involvement and investment from both the public and private
sectors. Given that South Africa's counterparts in developing countries like
India, Mexico and Brazil have already committed themselves to process
improvement and are competing successfully internationally, its time for
South Africa to step up to the plate and do the same," Dwolatzky says.